Smart car test drive

Having read your Smart car comments in our local newspaper automotive section, I have comments and questions: First the comments. I have test driven the car in freeway traffic at 75 mph on Interstate 25 in Albuquerque (5,280 feet above sea level). It does just fine. The sales person insisted on the freeway drive. I regularly drive a 24V Ford Taurus. I ordered my Smart car just after the test drive. My friend of 57 years who regularly drives a C65 Mercedes tried it as well and, like me, found every aspect of the car perfectly OK althouigh he pointed out that it doesn’t perform quite like his twin turbo 6 liter Mercedes V-12. He will likely order his Smart car this fall. Here’s the question - When will you test drive the car you seem so eager to put down in print? When will you watch the crash test movies showing the car impacting a concrete barricade at 70 mph?

I wasn’t aware that Tom & Ray put the car down. I tried searching their columns but couldn’t find any result. Do you have a link to this column they wrote?

I can’t speak for them but I have driven the car myself. It’s a perfectly fine CITY car which happens to have an automated manual transmission that shifts in a slow and clunky fashion. I wish it was either a full stick or auto, but that’s what they decided on. The fuel mileage is about 4-5mpg stronger than a Honda Fit and it fits in tight spaces, but beyond that it’s a lot less car than a Honda Fit for the money. If you live in a city it makes sense, but beyond that it’s a tougher sell unless you want an affordable convertible. That’s my opinion.

I haven’t seen Tom & Rays review, but it sounds consistent with the dozen or so other reviews out there, from CR to Car & Driver, etc. Basic problem, the driveability issues with the transmission and the rough ride are negatives, and the slightly better mileage and smaller dimensions than the Fit/Yaris do not make up for the reduced passenger/storage versatility for most users.

Also, most cars will seem fine at speed on the freeway. Stop and go, rough streets, that type of thing is where you’ll get a much better feel for a car’s day-to-day qualities.

Check the article in “The Santa Fe New Mexican Drive Magazine” August 28, September 3rd Page 10 - Smart or not so smart on the highway? The link should be through

I just read the article and it wasn’t so bad. They noted it for its positives and point out they haven’t driven it yet. They also recommended that the person drive it and see for themselves. Well, you drove one and you bought one smokey1145, so it looks like everyone should be happy. The Smart is a very safe car for its size however that small size means it may be susceptible to dangers from 18 wheelers a large car or SUV may not. It also wouldn’t fair too well in a crash with a 6,000 pound SUV. Given that the smart weights under 2,000 pounds the crash could be likened to a man who’s 5’10 170 pounds being tackled by a man who’s 6’4 450 pounds at full speed. You’ll probably survive it, but you’re going to feel a bit roughed up and probably need a visit to the doctors.

From what I’ve read, it makes too many sacrifices to be a worthwhile competitor to the Fit and Yaris. The fuel mileage is only slightly better, and is more than offset by it’s premium fuel requirement. The transmission is garbage. The car is much slower than it’s competitors, the stability control is way too aggressive, and I don’t care what manner of saftey cage body it has. If you are in an accident with anything larger than an accord, your chances of walking away are slim.

I am sure the Smart Car is as safe and nice as you say. However, it does have problems. One is that the sacrifice in space and size is not reflected in the fuel economy. I expect the Smart Car to get better fuel economy than it does. The other is the lag time in the shifting of the transmission. That would bug the heck out of me in everyday driving. My test drive was informative, but wasn’t impressive enough to make me want to buy one. There are other cars out there with comparable fuel economy, comparable price, more interior space, and smoother transmissions. In other words, you can easily get more car for the money.

When I lived in Holland in 2002-5 I rented a SMART for 2 weeks with the thought that this was an extended test drive…Before any comments, please look a the attached picture… I am 6’8" and 220(ish) lbs, so take that into perspective.

  • The car had minimal suspension… the ride was rough… but I was used to a larger car
  • the acceleration was fine, though a bit loud (the car I had was an Auto-stick, with a button to switch to full auto)
  • I could park anywhere (bonus points driving in Amsterdam)
  • I had more then enough room (headroom, leg room all fine)
  • I was not comfortable with my son (4 at the time) riding in the front seat, but the back seat was not there.
  • I would prefer not to ride it on the freeways, but keep it on the side roads, it would shake when trucks passed. I felt fine driving in the city also.
  • It sipped gas

In general I would suggest it for someone who never had a big car before, and did not notice the suspension or lack there of.

I never bought it. All that being said, I am not sure that the European model I had was the same as the one offered in the US. Once my other son (we have another now) is out of the car seat, I would consider testing the US version.

How many clowns can fit in it?

It was only me at the time. ; )

Despite how well the Smart apparently performs in a barrier test, in the event of a real-world collision with a substantially larger vehicle, the Smart will go “flying” for a considerable distance, with the exact distance dependent upon the speed of the vehicle that strikes it. This is a simple matter of physics, based on the mass of the Smart vs. the mass of the other vehicle.

Where you land, after “flying” could be a very dangerous place–such as in the path of another vehicle. Yes, any vehicle can exhibit this type of behavior if it is hit by a larger vehicle, but in a Smart, virtually every other vehicle on the road ranges from somewhat bigger to very substantially bigger. I would not want to be in a Smart when it is hit by a much larger vehicle.

I think the Smart Car has its place. Like any car, it’s not for everyone. It depends on your needs and your taste.

If you live and drive around in a city like San Francisco, it could be very useful. If you do mostly freeway driving, it wouldn’t be the best choice, in my opinion.

Of course, as I’ve written here before, I own a Yaris. I think it is a much better cost-effective vehicle, but one reason that people choose certain vehicles is because they enjoy the experience.

Just because I or someone else wouldn’t buy a Smart Car doesn’t make it a bad car. It has its appeal to many people or it wouldn’t continue to exist.